Depending on what kind of person you are, Beginning A Novel can be either intensely exciting or extremely anxiety-provoking. I tend to steer more on the anxiety side of things, so when I’ve begun stories in the past, I’ve found the following thoughts helpful:
- First of all, don’t be afraid that your ideas aren’t original. In fact, they are not. All of the good ideas were taken long ago – like since the beginning of storytelling. Great stories aren’t about mind-blowing rethinking of literature. They’re about good storytelling. Think of that friend who can make a one-act play out of filling up at the gas station. On other hand, I once read a book by a Channel swimmer whose name escapes me—she had a great story to tell and yet, this book was incredibly boring. Who can blame her—she’s an athlete not a writer.
- Then, set a few parameters. I don’t know about you, but I always do better with a few rules up front. It helps me focus my thoughts so I not swimming in a sea of too many choices. So first thing, decide for whom you want to write: age group, genre, and if you are so inclined, for women or for men or girls o boys. Once you decide that, you’ll have a better idea of your scope: how many words, how many chapters– especially if you’re writing for kids, where there are more rules about this sort of thing. You can decide what topic would be appropriate. You won’t be writing a slasher story for six year-olds.
- Write what you know. This is old advice for a reason. I don’t mean you have write about system analytics—I don’t even know what those are—but I mean you should write what you feel very at home both reading and writing. What do you like to read? I love realistic fiction – all my favorite books are plotless. And I tend to write more introspective books that focus on the relationships between people. Books are plot-heavy are harder for me to write, because I don’t find plot personally as interesting. Think about what you love, where you live, where you work, where your family from, what experiences you have had that have touched you deeply. These are all solid bases for stories and you should never think that your experiences are not worthy of fiction. They are.
Fiction is a constant game of imagination. The key question is What if? What would that person reading on the bench do if I threw something at them? What would happen to me? What if I, a suburban young mom, threw something at this person and was arrested? What would a holding cell be like to a person like me? Why did I throw the loaf of bread at the person? Had I just discovered something about her? What?
Getting the idea in fiction is one of the greatest pleasures in writing. It’s like a giant game of curiosity on steroids and you have to be ready to play.